It’s late now, and writing helps me sleep. Maybe I will create another blog for the mix of academic/intellectual pieces and unique business/travel reviews this blog was meant to be. Maybe I was never meant to be that kind of writer. Maybe that will come later. In any case, my readers (of which my tracking statistics tell me there are quite a few), are surely curious as to what happens next, so here goes.
I took a cab home from my firing meeting and called British Airways to see what the procedure would be for me to change my ticket date. They said it could be done, and I double confirmed that the purchaser of my ticket could not cancel the ticket if he found out I changed the date, and had not promptly run away tail tucked as he desired. The next move was to figure out what my next move would be. I called a close friend and mentor at Cornell who had been my career coach throughout my time there to get his take.
I won’t use names without permission in this blog, but my friend is a silver haired man in, I would guess, his mid-50s. A ruddy sort of a face with keen, skeptical eyes, a full clear voice and a spry step. Both salesmen, charmers, fast talkers, jokers, big lovers, we had a lot in common and hit it off immediately. He likes to talk about how Cornell is the working man’s Ivy, and loves to champion the underdog, which I was upon my arrival at Cornell.
Before I could say a word, he told me he knew it was going to be bad, because I was calling too early. I told him briefly what happened and you could almost smell the rage coming from the other side of the phone. He asked me many questions and I gave him my answers. He advised me to write my manager’s manager a letter and request severance, which I did. His anger was healing for me. Although my greater concern was for my survival it meant my feelings of outrage were justified and more important than anything it was great to know that he cared.
Next was to find a place to live. I scanned my mind for potential options. I knew that if push came to shove, there were a number of places I could stay. A handful of couches in Florida I could crash on, but my plane ticket was to NY and I’d have no way of getting there. Not to mention that a freshly minted MBA trying to make it in Florida is like an aspiring actress trying to become the next big thing from Omaha. Maybe not that bad but you get my point. Staying at my dad’s apartment in NYC was a very short term option at best, but in a worst case scenario I know he would kick in some cash to get me on my feet somehow, maybe a move back up to Ithaca where at least I have a network, or DC. While all of this reeled in my head all I could think was that I was not ready to leave Singapore. My work here was not done. There was opportunity here and here was where I wanted to be. I fought so hard to get here, was I really going to be beaten so easily?
I called an entrepreneur who I had first met pitching a business plan to my bio-renewables company last summer. His work was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was exciting, fresh, new, full of life. It was like someone had taken the MBA skillset and breathed life into it and used it to create something new and astounding. All the EBITDAs and the WACC’s and the market segmentation and the operational throughput and the five forces strategy was all there, but there was something else in there that I had not seen before. The unmistakable touch of the artist. I was deeply inspired, and I can say honestly that most of my work for the next year was based on that short presentation. We kept in touch during that time but I think I could say honestly that our friendship was still very much in a budding phase when I called him for advice and could not have expected what happened next. “No problem,” he said. “You stay with me.” He was in Helsinki at the time, closing a sweetheart deal with Finnish investors and said we would confirm soon. Nervous that he could change his mind as quickly as he made it the first time, it took an incredible act of faith to change my plane ticket with the last bit of money I had and pray that everything would work out.
Sure enough, my entrepreneur friend gave me his address and I shoved the few earthly possessions I have left into a cab and headed to the northern most tip of Singapore, where he lived. It was my first time seeing a house in singapore, as what they call “landed properties” here are very rare, but this house was unique in every way. My friend deserves a description. He is a tall, 6’5″, Swede with a warm, Tom Hanks kind of face and a charming sing-song Scandinavian accent. He is a self made man, from a small town, who has followed his passions around the world and had his fingers in many things. He has no shortage of stories and tells them well. He has, in more recent years I take it, become completely obsessed with climate change and sustainability and sees himself as a primary agent in the battle against this crisis. He has the wild innocence and eruptive temperament of an artist as well as the keen mind of a businessman. He is gregarious, generous and utterly bipolar.
For the next few weeks I lived with him and his Indonesian housemaid in their luxurious home while he regaled me constantly with stories of his conquests of every kind on every continent. His wife and young son had recently moved to Bali where his son would be attending a special school to prepare children for a sustainable future (not making this up, google “the green school”). He would be moving soon once some business in Singapore was finished up.
In the mean time I began to think about what I wanted to do. I thought about what was important to me, what I was good at, what I wanted to learn and be exposed to, and what I wanted my life to be about. I thought hard about these things and will probably discuss them further in a different post at some point. I also thought about my survival. I did get my severance pay, but it wasn’t going to last forever and most of it is already gone. I needed to balance what I wanted to do with what was achievable and would start bringing in money now.
To truncate the ending a bit, my entrepreneur friend kicked me out somewhat abruptly upon the return of his wife. I have been on and continue to go on a few interviews. My dad has offered to help me out, but it is pretty embarrassing how much financial support I have taken from my father in the last few years, especially since I used to be independently wealthy and drive a BMW (a fact which he loves reminding me of).
It all comes down to the BMW. How could anyone who ever drove a BMW ever need money for anything ever?
All pettiness aside, my dad has been an incredible source of support for me, financially and spiritually, my entire life and in a renewed way in the last few years. He deserves better than a son who would use him as anything but a last resort of financial support and that will be how it goes.
But if I’m going to make it on my own, I really do need to get some sleep now as it is very late.